The first few nights with his new best friend John Burnell didn’t sleep a wink. The six-week-old pup’s piercing cries left him rubbing his eyes, struggling to listen his professors. Burnell wondered if the decision to get a puppy would ever be worth his sleepless nights.
Dogs are a big responsibility, especially for busy college students. They can also be the perfect way to reduce stress and ease homesickness. John Burnell was a senior at University of Kansas when he and his roommates decided to adopt a yellow Labrador Retriever puppy from the Lawrence Humane Society.
“Senior year was the perfect time for me to adopt Drake because I already had job lined up for after graduation and knew I would be able to bring a dog with me,” Burnell said. “For me it was the easiest way to meet new girls and it was also a great stress reliever for me and my roommates.”
Before adopting the puppy, Burnell and his roommates wanted to make sure to find a dog that would be a good fit for their busy, sometimes crazy, college lifestyle.
“Being in college and owning a dog presents unique challenges and opportunities,” Burnell said. “Most people have more time to deal with a dog in college than they will have the first few years in the working world.”
The Humane Society of the United States believes that the idea of having a dog or other pet in college might not make the grade. An online article published by the organization says college students often have little time to care for pets and need to decide if the dog can wait a few years.
Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the adoption center for the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), believes that college students, such as Burnell, can be more than capable of caring for a dog, as long as they understand the responsibility and commitment that comes along with the dog.
“Dogs can offer a sense of companionship and comfort to stressed students and a constant ‘buddy’ who loves you no matter what,” Buchwald said.
Burnell found the biggest challenge of having a dog in college was finding places for Drake to stay when he went out of town. The financial responsibility was also a challenge as it quickly became more expensive than he had expected.
“Dogs can be really expensive, especially when they are puppies,” Burnell said. “Drake decided he wanted to eat a family-size bottle of Advil and had to spend two nights at the vet’s office which ended up costing me $1,500.”
Buchwald believes that owning a dog will not teach a student responsibility. Contrarily, the student needs to already be responsible in order to be a proper home for a dog.
The ASPCA doesn’t recommend specific breeds for certain situations, but encourages adopters to think about the personality and needs of the dog they think would be the best fit.
“If the student is at class for large stretches of time, they should be looking for a dog that is comfortable being left alone for hours,” Buchwald said. “Each dog is an individual and should be considered as such.”
One final idea to consider before the dog is brought home is who will own the dog after graduation in order to make sure the dog does not end up back at the shelter. Buchwald reminds students that life changes quite a bit after college, and the dog should be taken into account.
“The person you are as a student might not be the person you become in your late 20s, early 30’s,” Buchwald said. “Don’t adopt a dog if you think there’s any chance you won’t be able to care for it in the future.”
Burnell graduated in 2012 and took Drake with him. Burnell never regrets his decision to get a dog in college.
“I felt like I had done enough research on what breed would be a good and the costs of dogs, I mean, really thinking it through, before I got Drake,” Burnell said. “I graduated college and had to leave most of my friends for my job, but I got to take my best friend back home with me, which made all the challenges and dollars spent on Drake well worth it.”